No Belgian chocolate without cacao farmers such as Edmundo

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03 June 2021

There would be no Belgian chocolate without cacao farmers such as Edmundo, a loyal customer of the savings and credit cooperative Unión El Ejido.

 

In March 2021, photographer Philippe Lissac travelled to Ecuador on behalf of BRS and other organisations. In his suitcase were several sample boxes of twelve chocolate flavours (courtesy of Chocolate Nation). We followed him on his reverse journey from chocolate to cacao bean.

Mariana Arana, the enthusiastic CEO of our partner organisation Unión El Ejido, personally guided Philippe to San Roque, a mountain village in northern Ecuador. They were guests of cacao farmer Edmundo Ruiz and his family, a loyal customer of the savings and credit cooperative. 

It proved to be an exhausting journey in a mountainous region, with visitors falling on the slippery mud paths. But not for Edmundo and his clan, who make this trip almost daily. Fast and furious, they moved on and proudly displayed their plantation. The red fruits were maturing on the stem of the cacao trees. The fruit contains about 40 to 50 cacao beans in a white fleece. Are fresh cacao beans good to eat? It depends on many factors and on your taste, but it’s not the bean, it’s the white fleece around it, the pulp, that the kids eat on the spot. They love it. 

After fermentation and drying, the cacao beans are ready for sale. An entire production process will follow before the cacao beans result in our delicious Belgian chocolate. About 60 cacao beans are needed for 100 grams of milk chocolate, or roughly one cacao fruit for one chocolate bar.

Back at Edmundo’s home, it was time for the taste test of our chocolate. What would Edmundo find of the finished product? What flavour does this cacao farmer’s family prefer?  Do they actually eat chocolate themselves? The twelve flavours were tested from sweet to bitter. The dark chocolate is what they found most delicious. And no, they don’t eat much chocolate themselves. 

There would be no Belgian chocolate without cacao farmers like Edmundo. We have gained even more respect for these hard workers. The farewell was a warm one. And the extra chocolate boxes remained in San Roque.